The Biden administration announced on Thursday that it would impose financial penalties on Russia and expel several Russian diplomats from the U.S. in response to the country’s cyberhacking and its attempts to interfere in the 2020 election.
In a statement, the Treasury Department said it had taken “sweeping action against 16 entities and 16 individuals who attempted to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election at the direction of the leadership of the Russian Government.” Joining with European allies, the U.S. will also sanction eight people for their roles in Russian aggression in the Crimean peninsula. Russia has been amassing troops near the border of that region in recent days.
Among other measures taken by the Biden administration, the State Department will also direct ten Russian diplomats to leave the U.S. within 30 days.
For the first time, the U.S. named a specific culprit it deemed responsible for the sophisticated and sprawling SolarWinds hack. The Biden administration said that intelligence agencies had “high confidence” that the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service was behind it.
President Biden spoke to Putin on the phone on Tuesday, and, according to National Security adviser Jake Sullivan, struck a conciliatory note, even as he previewed the sanctions. Sullivan told CNN that Biden “made no bones about the fact we will be taking actions this week, but he also indicated that he wants to get to that stability in this relationship, and he believes that if President Putin is prepared to do that as well.”
But stability in the U.S.-Russia relationship has been lacking for a long time, and Russian response to the sanctions will almost certainly be forthcoming. Soon after the Biden administration announced its moves, the Kremlin called for what it described as a “difficult conversation” with John Sullivan, the U.S. ambassador to Russia.